Reconstructing Race, History and Subjectivity after the 1960s

deadline for submissions: 
February 16, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
Society for the Study of Southern Literature (SSSL)
contact email: 

Reconstructing Race, History and Subjectivity after the 1960s

In the wake of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, both Black and White Americans worked to shape how race would be constructed and understood in the United States. In African American literature, a new form gained traction: Neo-Slave Narratives or Contemporary Narratives of Slavery. These works helped to lay the cultural and intellectual groundwork for contemporary understandings of transatlantic slavery’s role as the material and social basis of modern American social and political structures. However, as Aida Levy-Hussen argues in How to Read African American Literature, while identification with the past sometimes serves therapeutic and politically galvanizing purposes, for others it threatens to inhibit personal and social transformations. At the same time, White Americans, too, tried to frame their own relationship with the southern past. For some writers, this history served as a vital touchstone, helping explain the present. Conversely, as Grace Elizabeth Hale argues in her book A Nation of Outsiders, most White Americans “fell in love” with the image of the outsider, and through this image “they remade themselves. They became outsiders too” (3).  Through this imagined break with history and community, White people began understanding themselves as separated from their past, no longer carrying what C. Vann Woodward calls “the burden of Southern history.” This panel seeks papers that analyze the specific strategies and consequences born from how post-1960s authors construct the southern "past." How, in other words, does the turn towards or away from southern history as an explanatory paradigm shape conceptions of race and identity in the United States?

Possible topics might include:

  • discourses of history and subjectivity in post-Civil Rights literature and culture
  • representations of slavery in post-Civil Rights literature and culture 
  • representations of Reconstruction in post-Civil Rights literature and culture
  • representation of “outsiderness” as a form of identity
  • the contemporary popularity and critical success of Historical Fiction in the U.S.
  • Alternate histories and other speculative genres
  • the use of Neo-Slave Narratives/Contemporary Narratives of Slavery in disciplines outside of literary studies
  • shifting historical meanings of region/the south 
  • relationships between literary/cultural production and history as a discipline/method


Please submit 200 word paper proposals to Garrett Bridger Gilmore ( and Will Murray ( by  Friday, February 16th.